The third chapter of Philadelphia rapper Voss‘ Book of Michael series has me nostalgic for the golden age of DatPiff, when artists dropped mixtapes regularly, filling in the space between solid originals and occasional throwaways with freestyles, skits, and remixes of radio hits. Voss’ clever lyrics, wordplay, and punchlines are perfectly suited to that environment, and after 7 songs I find myself wishing for more, perhaps with some pop context to underscore his wit and technique by comparison. That lack of foil is perhaps the strongest criticism I have of this EP. Though the Book of Michael title implies a solo effort, a few features would be welcome just to give the battle-hardened VO someone to bounce off of, rather than building boast upon boast absent competition. He’s been in the game long enough to release that, though, and counters it by packing the back half of the tape with both bangers (“Nowhere To Hyde”) and the best of the introspective tracks implied by the subtitle Heavy Is The Head (“Visit” and “The Give and the Take”). That’s not to say the first half is lacking, however. “Highlander” in particular is a clinic, with muted, stormy synths swirling beneath his consistently vicious vocal attack. The church organs of “No Return” and female vocal sample on the hook provide the album’s centerpiece immediately after, making the religious tone of the EP series more tangible, surprising given the lyric “I ain’t never read no Bible, scriptures written in an old spiral.” Though the first two songs play on cliche phrases, Voss is taking an approach to both making and releasing his music that is anything but. Time will tell if it pays off.
While Voss was having a listening party for Heavy Is The Head over at Philly Kid Grafix on Frankford Ave in Kensington, The Bul Bey was down on South Street at P’s and Q’s mens’ shop doing the same for his debut album Shaking Hands and Kissing Babies. After a long, slow build, with the video and single for “Where I’m From” dropping over the summer, and “On” this past fall, friends and fans are excited to finally get their hands on the full project. Released through party crew Illvibe Collective’s Illvibe Media, these 15 tracks are the culmination of months of recording, promotion, performances, and more. From the opening track’s repurposing of the “Mantra” from fan favorite “Not Afraid”, off his last mixtape, 2012′s You’re Quite Right, it’s clear that this is meant to be just one more step in an ongoing journey. Careful track sequencing continues to convey that impression: “All I Really Want” segues into “Fourthcoming”, “Welcome to My Campaign”, “Life” with Like from Pac Div and A’rin Leon (another carryover from You’re Quite Right), “Preview”, a brief “Interlude” with Ganou makes way to move “Forward” with Hazie Blu bandmate Code9, which is “So Special” because of “Where I’m From” with Davon and “Where I’ve Been”, which helps “Work Out The Kinks” with Mickey Factz, who he opened for this year, which helped him get “On”, but there is “So Much Further To Go” with Faylin Johnson, and wrapping things up with Dahi Devine on the “Outro”. It’s refreshing to see a local artist with such a well-planned full-length project, rather than a collection of singles. With two strong releases in one day, it’s clear that the future of Philadelphia hip-hop remains bright.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC